I have so many misgivings about this advice she's giving her sons. Is that really how they ought to be going into relationships, trying to resolve internally that they can fall out of love even if that's not how they treat a partner?
But above all I think I may be wondering, is she right? Is this cynical advice good advice in the long run? The more I hear it, the more it sounds completely logical, but it pushes against every romantic bone in my body.
Should I talk to her and see if she might stand down? Should I offer an alternative point of view to her sons? Is this what I should be telling my own children one day?
— Questioning My Sister
Questioning My Sister: There’s one great lesson emerging from this: If you don’t know what you’re saying, then don’t say it.
It's also a good idea not to correct someone else's non-emergency parenting in general — much less while you're still entertaining the possibility this parent is so right that you might incorporate their new ideas into your own parenting methods.
I guess the upshot here is that you have a lot to think about. That's a good thing. Think away.
It's an excellent point to ponder, too; if there were a professional association for advice columnists, then I'd expect it to heartily endorse more nuance and less Disney Princess in the way we teach our children about love and partnership. (Imagine those association board meetings, though.)
Furthermore, it would be a good idea to give some thought to why, when you developed these misgivings, two-thirds of your first impulses involved acting upon them through meddling in your sister’s family — and three-thirds involved acting upon your misgivings, period. Sometimes we accomplish more by — again — thinking more, observing more, and doing or saying less. Or nothing. At least until it becomes obvious that interceding is the only responsible course of action.
You do have one option here that ties everything together: You can talk to your sister about her approach. “What you're telling the boys goes against every romantic bone in my body. Yet it sounds completely logical. I'd love your thoughts on this, as I figure out how to talk to my kids.” You might also ask how she finesses this without badmouthing the kids' father, since that's the varsity-parenting skill. And since the respectful thing is to assume she's doing that vs. question whether she is.
If you respond to your sister’s different methods with curiosity, humility, respect and an open mind, then imagine what you’ll teach your kids about relationships — even if you ultimately choose to give your kids a better spin on romance than it probably deserves.